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Problem Solving

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What is Problem Solving?

  • Is a technique to identify root causes of problems.
  • Is strictly fact based.
  • Problem Solving techniques are used in:
    • ISO-9000
    • QS-9000
    • QS-9000 TE Supplement
    • QS-9000 Semiconductor Supplement
    • Quality Operating System (QOS)
    • Total Quality Management (TQM)
    • ISO 14001:2004 Environment Management System
    • ISO/IEC 17025:2005 Laboratory Quality System
  • Uses various problem solving tools:
    • Creative thinking
    • Rational thinking
    • Decision thinking
    • Risk analysis
    • Check-sheets and Work Instructions
    • Pareto Diagrams and Trend Charts
    • Process Flow Diagrams, FMEA, and Control Plans
    • Cause and Effect Diagrams
    • Dot Plots and Histograms
    • Scatter Plots and Analysis of Variation
    • Control Charts
    • Advanced Statistical and Data Analysis Tools
      • Simulation
      • Regression Analysis
      • Designed Experiments

Key Features

  • A standardized problem solving methodology for the company.
  • The importance of process improvement in organizational progress.
  • Making problem solving and process improvement a part of the work schedule.
  • Realizing that problem solving is a key to customer satisfaction.
  • Understanding the quality concepts put forth by Dr. Deming.
  • Prioritizing problems using fault analysis.

The Problem Solving Procedure

  • Fault selection and problem statement
  • Operational definition
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Root cause analysis
  • Formulation of action plan and its implementation
  • Efficacy analysis
  • Standardization of the process
  • Continuous process improvement

Team Based Problem Solving

  • Addresses Complicated Problems

    The team approach works best when the problem as well as its associated information, is complicated and beyond what one member is reasonably capable of knowing.

  • Addresses Special Cause and Common Cause Problems

    The 8-D process was designed to work best with special cause problems. However it can also be associated with common cause problems and improvement actions like those associated with a QOS.

  • Uses Cross-functional Inputs

    Working in a cross-functional team means that each problem solver no longer needs to know all the technical details about how things work. Necessary information is available from a variety of team members.

  • Promotes Standardization

    A team approach to problem solving leads to a common language. This promotes effectiveness, consistency, time savings, and change control.

  • Designed for Problems with Unknown Root Causes

    The problem solving process is used to identify root causes of problems and provide corrective action.

The 8-D Problem Solving Process

The Eight Disciplines (8-D) comprise a method of resolving a problem when the cause of the problem is unknown.

  • Encompasses the Entire Process

    As a Problem Solving Process, it is a sequence of events which should be followed from the moment a problem or improvement opportunity is evident.

  • Facilitates Timely Solutions

    When correctly followed, it helps to facilitate a timely resolution to the Problem.

  • Provides a Reporting Format
    • The 8-D Report is a living document
      • Progress to date.
      • An action plan for completion.
    • The 8-D Report is used to communicate progress on resolving a problem. It may serve as a reference for future efforts.
  • Establishes a Standard Practice
    • An emphasis on facts, where problem solving, decision making, planning are driven and monitored by hard factual data.
    • A commitment to solving the origin of the problem, not just masking the effects of the problem.
    • An enforced discipline.

Team Problem Solving Objectives

  • Form Team

    Establish a small group of people with the process/product knowledge, allocated time, authority, and skill in the required technical disciplines to solve the problem and implement corrective actions. The group must have a designated champion.

  • Describe the Problem

    Specify the internal/external customer problem by identifying in quantifiable terms the who, what, when, where, why, how, how many(5W2H) for the problem.

  • Implement and Verify Interim (Containment) Actions

    Define and implement containment actions to isolate the effect of a problem from any internal/external customer until corrective action is implemented. Verify the effectiveness of the containment action.

  • Find and Verify Root Causes

    Identify all potential causes which would explain why the problem occurred. Isolate and verify the root cause by testing each potential cause against the problem description and test data. Identify alternative corrective actions to eliminate root cause.

  • Select Permanent Corrective Actions

    Though test programs quantitatively confirm that the selected corrective actions will resolve the problem for the customer, and will not cause undesirable side effects. Define contingency actions, if necessary, based on risk assessment.

  • Implement Permanent Corrective Actions

    Define and implement the best permanent corrective actions. Choose on-going controls to ensure that the root cause is eliminated. Once in effect, monitor the long term impact and implement contingency actions, if necessary.

  • Prevent System Problems

    Modify the management systems, operating systems, practices, and procedures to prevent recurrence of these and any other similar problems.

  • Congratulate the Team

    Recognize the collective efforts of the team and learn from what they did.

Inhibitors to Effective Problem Solving

  • Problem Described Incorrectly

    A clear, thorough description of the problem is necessary. A problem must be adequately described and the definition must be narrow enough in scope for the team to solve the problem effectively.

  • Problem Solving Effort Expedited

    Problem solving steps are skipped in order to obtain a quick solution. Conventional wisdom often drives this.

  • Poor Team Participation

    Not all team members participate effectively, so the team fails to consider all possible causes of the problem.

  • No Logical Thought Process

    The team lacks a disciplined system for analyzing problems

  • Lack of Technical Skills

    Team members are not adequately trained.

  • Management Impatience

    The management's lack of understanding of the problem solving process makes all levels of management demand to know exactly when a problem will be solved. This pressure often ensues in inadequate analysis.

  • Potential Cause Misidentified as a Root Cause

    Sometimes a potential cause is quickly identified as a root cause, and the problem investigation is concluded. However, the problem recurs because the root cause was not eliminated.

  • Permanent Corrective Actions not Implemented

    A root cause may be identified, but no action is taken to implement a permanent corrective action. Permanent actions often require management to approve the costs and implement the actions.

Tools for Identifying and Understanding the Problem

  • Check-sheets

    Help gather information

  • Pareto Diagram

    Help identify the 'vital few' problems from the 'trivial many' problems

  • The Process Flow

    Helps one to identify the process to see the interaction between operations.

  • The Five Whys'

    They transfer the problem definition to the operational definition.

  • Is/Is Not Analysis (Problem Solving Worksheet)

    Helps to document the problem into what, when, where , how big.

Tools for Analyzing the Problem

  • Cause and Effect Diagrams

    Helps brainstorm the causes of the problems.

  • Is/Is Not Analysis

    Aids to identify the potential causes.

  • Scatter Diagrams and Histograms

    Help to verify the root cause.

Tools for Implementing and Maintaining Improvements

  • Action Plans

    Action Plans are used to track all actions that need to be followed and implemented.

  • Trend Charts<

    Trend Charts are used to make management presentations and track overall improvements.

  • 8-D Summaries and Paynter Charts

    8-D Summaries and Paynter Charts are used in management review meetings to track process.

  • FMEA and Control Plans
  • Control Charts

    Control charts are used to monitor processes for the occurrence of special cause variation, and to measure common cause variation.

Creative Thinking

  • Forward Looking

    Creativity is the tool that transforms companies from the 'here & now' to the 'future'.

  • Under Used

    Hindrances to creative thinking are often ingrained in organizational cultures.

  • Break Paradigms

    Creativity helps break paradigms, taking us from 'what we know' to 'what might be possible'. When we pursue creativity undeterred, we allow ourselves the option of considering all the possibilities.

  • Important in Problem Solving

    Creativity is used in steps D4 and D5 of the problem solving process.

Managing the Company wide Problem Solving Process

  • Maintain Data

    Create and Maintain a database of external and internal quality and process problems.

  • Set Priorities

    Use the process problems database to identify and select problems or improvement opportunities.

  • Use the Right Tools
    • Process Review
    • Process Flow
    • Process FMEA
    • Control Plans
  • Team Problem Solving
    • Data Analysis Tools
    • Designed Experiments (DOE)
    • Regression Analysis
    • Others

QOS and Problem Solving for Continuous Improvement

  • Identify Customer Expectations and Competitive Bench Marks
  • Establish Strategic Imperatives
  • Identify Processes and Measurables
  • Disaggregate Data using Pareto Diagrams
  • Identify Improvement Projects
  • Conduct Problem Solving with Cross-Functional Teams
  • Review Progress on a Regular Basis
    • Trend Charts
    • Pareto
    • 8-D Summary
    • Paynter Chart

Product & Process Validation


  • Production trial run
  • Measurement systems evaluation
  • Preliminary process capability study
  • Production Part Approval (PPAP)
  • Production validation testing
  • Packaging evaluation
  • Production control plan
  • Quality planning sign-off & management support

Feedback, Assessment & Corrective Action


  • Reduced variation
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Documentation & service


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